(An exclusive dialogue with World Sikh News)
In an informal discussion with World Sikh News, Ram Jethmalani, eminent lawyer and ex-member of Indian Parliament, expressed deep concern at the growing alienation of Sikhs from the national mainstream. He unequivocally blamed the Congress (I) for injecting communal venom in the body politic of India for narrow, short term electoral gains. He said that the congress (1) leadership was mainly composed of criminal minds. He wanted the Sikhs not to blame the entire majority community for the sins of the present rulers. He emphatically asserted that Khalistan was not the correct answer to Sikh problem and pointedly asked, “Don’t you think that in their own best interest Sikhs should seek solution within the framework of India constitution.”
Editor: Where was the demand for Khalistan before “operation Bluestar”? In 1947 even after being recognized as third heirs in the Transfer. Of Power Act, Sikhs had opted to align themselves with India rather than have their own sovereign state not so much because of the historical bonds between Hindus and Sikhs but because of the solemn pledges which in reality were in the nature of an unwritten contract. Unfortunately the contract was violated within days of gaining independence and Sikhs were made to struggle and sacrifice for basic constitutional rights that were abundantly available as a matter of routine to the members of the majority community. Even Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had also categorically said that his demand was not Khalistan, adding that Sikhs would not throw away as they did in 1947, if Khalistan was put in their lap. This position obtained before the operation Bluestar, before the anti-Sikh masacre of November 1984.
Today the whole scenarist stands radically changed Sikh murderers have been jubilantly elected to parliament and rewarded with cabinet rank ministries, de stories of Akal Takht and killers of thousands of innocent Sikhs have been deco rated with gallantry awards and Punjab pre sants a dismal spectacle of a vanquished land being arrogantly trampled by a re vengeful occupation forces Face the bitter reality, Mr Jethmalani, and let us no drift away in the unreal world of sentimental platitudes. Sikhs have deep respect for you and for all men of your caliber and convictions, but find you all powerless and _ ineffective against the demented communal diehards that are currently ruling the roost in Delhi’s corridors of power. If this majority community honestly wants to retrieve the hopeless situation, let it throw away the present government of criminals and murderers and instead elect justice loving people like you, let eminent personalities from all over the country go to Punjab and win back Sikh confidence with love and affection. Sikhs are a peace-loving people and believe in universal brotherhood and respond to the language of love like all civilized nations. Sikhs want to live with honor and dignity and they are particularly jealous of their identity and freedom. They had voluntarily aligned themselves with India in the hope of enjoying all these basic rights, but the treatment meted out to them by the government and the majority community has forced them to demand a set up where they too can enjoy the refreshing breeze of freedom.
Jethmalani: Your grouse should be against the congress that deliberately adopted an anti-Sikh attitude and discriminated on the basis of religion. The right approach would be to change this government through democratic processes.
Gill: Sikhs are only 2% of Indian population. How can they ever win in the game of numbers?
Jethmalani: There are ways to expose the government by pin pointing the ugly role of congress (I) functionaries in anti-Sikh riots and getting the culprits punished through the judicial enquiry, congress (1) can be humbled in the elections. Believe me vast majority of Hindus have great regard and love for Sikhs and when truth comes out, they will throw this corrupt and criminal government out.
Editor: What can Sikhs expect of a judicial enquiry? Is there any distinction left between executive and judiciary or between executive and legislative wing the three supposedly independent organs of a healthy democracy after the judgments of judges like Dayal and Kirpal, after the enactment of draconian black laws? Ten thousand Sikhs are brutally murdered, their homes looted, their women raped and their children and young men burnt alive and no law is enacted to punish or stop the diabolic thugs and lumpens. Hundreds of Harijans and Muslims are killed by High Caste Hindus and parliament is not moved. But just a few bombs explode and the parliament loses its shirt and enacts the most stringent laws.
Jethmalani: Opposition members did criticize these laws.
Editor: What did the opposition do beyond expressing their concern at the likely misuse of the laws? Did any opposition member record his dissent? Did any member stage a walk-out?
Jethmalani: Don’t forget that persons who conducted public enquiries and indicted the high ups in congress are all Hindus? The effort should be to clear the rot rather than fight for a separate state. Besides there is not much support for Khalistan even among the Sikhs.
Gill: If majority of the Sikhs in Punjab is opposed to the demand for Khalistan, then, why is army still there? Why government is not permitting foreign journalist to visit Punjab? The fact is that the majority among the Sikhs today has come round to the conviction that it would not be possible for Sikhs to live honorably within India. A correspondent from Calcutta admitted this fact when he wrote, “Scratch a Sikh in Punjab and you would find a Khalistani.”
Mahesh (Son of Jethmalani): Do not equate today’s position with 1947 when Pakistan was created. At that time the sovereignty was vested in the British and they divided it into countries. Today sovereignty vests with India and no government worth the name would ever accept its division.
Editor: Let us be very clear about the question of sovereignty. Let us steer clear of the motivated distortions and calculated misinformation. Let us face it that Sikhs as a sovereign entity being the third heirs to British India had not merged but aligned with India on a contractual basis the contract that unambiguously envisaged “‘special consideration in an area and set up in the north where in the Sikhs can also experience the glow of freedom“ (Nehru). The disgraceful breach of contract has landed us back in a position that obtained in 1947. Sikhs have their sovereignty back with them and they want that their territory should be peacefully demarcated. Don’t blame the Sikhs for this sorry state. Blame the government or the people that elect such a communal government.
The trust and confidence reposed by the Sikhs in their Hindu brethren lies shattered. Sikh psyche is bruised and bleeding and they have lost all hope of ever getting an honorable status in a set up where rabidly communal forces are determined to teach them a lesson.
Jethmalani: The situation I feel, is not entirely hopeless.
Editor: Sikhs have the deepest regard for you and all men of your convictions. The hope lies in the forces of reason reasserting themselves through eminent personalities like you. If reasonable men get together and seek reasonable solutions, India’s disintegration may still be saved.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 7, 1985